Discover Downtown Tuscumbia

Of the four cities that make up the Shoals—Tuscumbia, Sheffield, Florence and Muscle Shoals—Tuscumbia is the oldest. The city, which is the county seat for Colbert County, was organized in the 1820s, and some of the beautiful historic structures downtown and the beautiful old homes along Sixth Street reflect this history. Tuscumbia is where Helen Keller was born, and Spring Park, at one end of the town, provides a gathering place for artists, musicians, and families who want to enjoy the dancing fountains, ride the train or feed the ducks.

Downtown Tuscumbia is also one of the most active and thriving shopping districts in the Shoals. The downtown area, which has undergone a renaissance, is home to specialty shops and boutiques, housed within the historic exteriors of landmark buildings along beautifully landscaped streets. Market 35674, the merchants’ association for Tuscumbia, organizes monthly street festivals on the Fourth Thursday of every month, where artists and craftspeople line the streets downtown to show and sell their wares. The Helen Keller Festival, held every June, honors this Woman of Courage; The Miracle Worker is performed at her home, and there are activities in Spring Park associated with the Festival. Spring Park is also a gathering place in the fall for a Native American Festival that honors the earliest residents of this area.

You can tell that Tuscumbia has a proud history by driving through the downtown. What you might be delighted to find is the beautiful things offered for sale in the specialty shops there. Audie Mescal, at the corner of Fifth and Main downtown, is an upscale women’s boutique with fashionable clothing, shoes and accessories, and owner Leslie Cassady is on hand to help provide an individual approach to your fashion and style. (The shop is named for her grandmother, Audie Mescal.) The store is open Monday through Saturday from 10:00am to 5:30pm at 101 N. Main Street. (256-314-6684; email audiemescal@bellsouth.net.)

Interested in history? Cold Water Books, at the corner of Sixth & Main Boutique, offers a variety of books about the Shoals area, as well as hundreds of other reading options. Sit down with a cup of coffee and read to your hearts content, or watch for their book signings, which feature local writers and are often accompanied by the sounds of local musicians. Cold Water Books is one of those places where you stop by and end up staying for awhile, because it’s so filled with wonderful things! The bookstore is open Monday through Friday, 7:00am-8:00pm, Saturday 9:00am-9:00pm, and Sunday 1:00pm-5:00pm (101 W. Sixth St.; phone (256) 381-2525; coldwaterbooks.com.)

Hungry? There’s another piece of history that will satisfy your curiosity and your appetite, called The Palace Ice Cream & Sandwich Shop. The Palace was established in 1906, and was renovated by Tuscumbia natives (and guardian angels) Harvey and Joyce Ann Robbins, the catalyst for much of Tuscumbia’s renaissance. Beautifully restored, you’ll sit on old fashioned swivel chairs and enjoy sandwiches and hand-made milkshakes, and swear you have stepped back in time. Open for lunch weekdays; 100 N. Main Street at the corner of Fifth. (Phone 256-386-8210.)

Feeling creative? You’re going to love Thread, where owner Alyson Ray has packed the store with colorful, fun and unique fabrics and sewing accessories. Fabrics include designs from Amy Butler, Anna Marie Horner, Heather Bailey, and many more. Thread also carries thread, needles and other tools and accessories for the seamstress, and offers sewing classes for those who want to sharpen their skills—or just get started! Thread is at 109 West Sixth Street. (threadfabricstore.com; phone 256-383-2223.)

Want to outfit the stylish child? Josey Ella, at 116 S. Main Street, is a unique posh boutique that offers vintage-inspired clothing, accessories and furniture for newborns, children—and Mom! It’s a sophisticated, shabby chic place with beautiful offerings for the younger set, and owner Casey Jeffrey is on hand to help find the perfect gift or outfit for your young person. The store is open Tuesday through Friday, 10:00am-5:00 pm, and Saturday 10:00am-3:00pm (116 S. Main Street; phone 256-248-4166.)

Want something else unique? Fiddledee D! has it! This specialty gift shop is actually a retail cooperative, home to merchants who offer a variety of home items, including unique holiday decorations, flower arrangements and one-of-a-kind handmade items. Located at 111 S. Main Street, the shop is open from 10:00am-5:00pm, Monday through Saturday. (Phone 256-383-9797.)

Interested in sophisticated women’s wear, shoes and accessories? Sixth & Main Boutique, located in one of the oldest buildings in the state of Alabama, should definitely be on your list of to-dos in downtown Tuscumbia. Browse through a wide variety of beautiful clothes, but take time to look at the jewelry, which is spectacular. The boutique is located at Sixth and Main (of course!), at 121 S. Main Street, and is open Monday through Saturday from 10:00 am-5:00pm. (Phone 256-248-4484.)

Antique lovers will spend hours at Treasure House Catalog Returns on south Main Street. The antique mall offers great deals on home décor items, furniture, clothing and even toys (such as Lee Middleton Dolls and Thomas the Train.) The inventory changes quickly, so you never know what you’ll find there, but the astute shopper will want to spend hours looking. The store is open Monday through Saturday, 10:00am to 5:00pm. (117 S. Main; phone 256-381-2270.)

At 105 W. 6th Street, check out Mimi’s, a gift and apparel store that features the best in brand name bags, fun patterned totes, monogrammed towels, holiday items and items to show your team spirit. Need to take home a gift? Mimi’s is a great place to find it! The store is open Monday through Friday, 10:00am to 5:30pm and Saturday, 10:00am to 5:00pm. (Phone 256-248-4761.)

Okay, men, downtown Tuscumbia has something for you, too. Tuscumbia Trading Company is the man’s one-stop shop for menswear. The store has a quaint, old fashioned feel, but the clothing is stylish—with brand name golf shirts and shorts, and tailored suits at unbelievable prices. Come get outfitted for a day at the golf course, or a day in the boardroom—you’ll find it all here. (102 West 5th Street; phone 256-389-0450.)

Let’s talk art. Cassetta Gallery is a fine art gallery and framery, located just beyond Cold Water Books at the corner of Sixth and Main. A family business since 1937, the gallery has everything from gifts and cards, posters, paintings, sculpture, and home décor to specialty lighting and custom archival framing. Owner Martha Stevens is there to consult with you and help choose the perfect gift or the perfect frame for your artwork. Located at 200 S. Main Street, the Gallery is open Tuesday through Friday from 10:30am to 5:00pm., and Saturdays 10:30am to 2:00pm. (Phone 256-386-5252 or 256-366-8338.)

Want to take a break from shopping? Visit the Tennessee Valley Art Museum (511 N. Water Street), near Ivy Green, the Birthplace of Helen Keller. At the Museum, you can see the latest artistic exhibitions or study the prehistoric Martin Petroglyph, which features carvings from native people that predate the Native American tribes that inhabited the area. At Ivy Green, you can stroll through the house and gardens where the First Lady of Courage learned her first word, “water,” and see the many tributes to this remarkable woman’s life.

If you love music, venture west to the Alabama Music Hall of Fame (617 Highway 72, West) a 12,500 square foot exhibit designed to honor the many important musical contributions of Alabamians. Exhibits range from Pop and Country Music, to Rhythm and Blues and Gospel. You can even make your very own recording in the Recording Studio!

Finally, if you want a unique and useful carry-all to take home all of your purchases—or, if you’re planning a trip to the beach or the lake—go online and visit Carter & Co. Product designers Carter McGuyer and Brandi Pennington developed the versatile tote to handle their own beach excursions, and got such attention for it they decided to create a line. After it was featured on Good Morning America, sales skyrocketed. Visit www.cartercooperative.com to see it for yourself.

The nicest part about visiting downtown Tuscumbia is the people you will meet. Everyone here is just so friendly! You can get sewing advice from Alyson, wardrobe tips from Leslie, and a list of the best regional books from any of the new friends you’ll meet at Cold Water Books. And the town’s stately homes, along Sixth Street, beautiful court house in the center of town, and the Tennessee Valley Art Museum, all offer reasons to slow down the pace, relax and take it all in. Maybe the first stop on your shopping tour should be to the The Palace Ice Cream & Sandwich Shop for a milkshake before you grab a book at Cold Water Books and find a bench in Spring Park, where you can watch the geese and listen to children play and to the sound of the refreshing waterfall.

Variety, unique offerings, and a beautiful and historic location. For shopping, dining, and history, downtown Tuscumbia should certainly be a part of your itinerary!

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